I’m new to cake making.  In fact I’ve only made four so far; a lemon drizzle cake, a chocolate cake, a Molly cake and, today, a Christmas cake.  I don’t have a plausible excuse for becoming a cake maker so late in life.  I’m afraid it’s a classic case of learnt helplessness.  My late mother made cakes and somehow it never dawned on me to have a go myself.  My wife has always made cakes and, once again, this lulled me into a career of non-cake making.  I know, I know…….mollycoddled, pathetic, indefensible.

Never mind, I’ve got there at last!

 I assumed, arrogantly, that making cakes was a matter of slavishly following the recipe.  That’s what Mary Berry says in the introduction to her book, Simple Cakes.  ‘There is no mystique about making cakes.  You simply need to follow a good, sound recipe meticulously’.   However, the four recipes, upon which I have been totally dependent, have assumed a level of knowledge that has laid bare my ignorance.   Here are a few examples:

In all four recipes the first step is an instruction to preheat the oven.  This obviously assumes that I’m only going to take 15 minutes or so preparing all the ingredients.  Absurd.  The oven would be in meltdown and looking remarkably like a Salvia Dali painting by the time I’m ready to put anything in it.

Step 2 of my Christmas cake recipe was all about lining the cake tin with baking parchment.   A nightmare!  The default position for baking parchment is to be tightly wound round a cardboard tube.  My parchment had obviously been slumbering in this position for years.  Despite greasing the inside of the cake tin with lashings of butter, the parchment kept returning to a foetal position.   Making a ‘lid’ out of a double layer of parchment, with  20p sized hole in the centre to allow steam to escape, that would not touch the surface of the cake mixture (not that there was a mixture to be touched yet) was another mystery.

Step 4 (I managed step 3 without mishap) of my Christmas cake recipe said, ‘Add the eggs one at a time’.  The recipe required three eggs but I couldn’t understand why it was necessary to urge me to add them ‘one at a time’.  I could only assume that accomplished cake makers habitually add eggs simultaneously and on this occasion had to be warned to kerb their enthusiasm.   (I have since discovered that the instruction meant that each egg was supposed to be mixed in before the next one was added.) 

Steps 5 and 6 required me to fold things into the mix.  Fold?  This is what I do to pieces of paper not to flour, fruit, almonds and the like.  I just added everything hoping that adding was a close relative of folding.    

Finally, step 8. ‘Remove the cake from the tin and place on a wire rack to cool completely’.  This bland instruction fails to indicate the high level of juggling skills required to get the cake out of the tin in one piece and to free it from the wretched baking parchment (only slightly more docile after four hours in the oven; stubborn stuff baking parchment).

Ah well, live and learn. 

PS  The cake looks fine but has yet to be tasted.     

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